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Putting My Foot in It
     

Putting My Foot in It

by Rene Crevel, Thomas Buckley (Translator), Ezra Pound (Foreword by), Edouard Roditi (Introduction)
 

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Renè Crevel's 1933 novel Putting My Foot in It (Les Pieds dans le plat) has long been considered a classic of the surrealist period, but has never been translated into English until now. Loosely structured around a luncheon attended by thirteen guests, the novel is a surrealistic critique of the intellectual corruption of post-World War I France, especially the

Overview

Renè Crevel's 1933 novel Putting My Foot in It (Les Pieds dans le plat) has long been considered a classic of the surrealist period, but has never been translated into English until now. Loosely structured around a luncheon attended by thirteen guests, the novel is a surrealistic critique of the intellectual corruption of post-World War I France, especially the capitalist bourgeoisie and its supporter, the Catholic Church. The novel begins with an account of the family of the major character, known as the "Prince of Journalists." This bizarre family—the grandparents a soldier and a sodomized woman, the parents an orphaned epileptic and a hunchback—is matched by Crevel's bizarre syntax and vocabulary: nouns that initially appear legitimate, intact, and respectable, soon decompose into obscene epithets, making other nouns, both common and proper, suspect. The story continues in this way to deconstruct itself on many levels—literary, semantic, psychological, ideological—until the final chapter, when the luncheon degenerates in a way reminiscent of a Bu–uel film and all of the novel's characters appear in a dirty movie entitled The Geography Lesson, a final metaphor for the corruption of European society between the world wars.
This edition also reprints Ezra Pound's well-known essay on Crevel as a foreword, and includes an introduction by Edouard Roditi, who knew Crevel in the 1930s. (Mr. Roditi died in May of 1992 while this book was in production.)

"A scathing political and social satire about a post-World War I Europe increasingly darkened by Hitlerian shadows. . . . In a radical departure from the standard French-fiction fare of his day, Crevel brilliantly renews the force and the farce of Petronius' 'Satryicon.' Indeed this ribald, acerbic, at times, uproarious . . . series of interconnected caricatures graphically illustrates the abrupt changes in prose writing brought on by surrealist aesthetics." (San Francisco Chronicle 12-27-92)

"The works that Crevel left us indicate that he was one of the most original, gifted French novelists of the century." (San Francisco Bay Guardian 1-93)

"Crevel remains one of the most readable surrealists. . . . [H]e is a beautiful writer, beautifully translated. His liquid language tumbles along, powered by his strong descriptions, by his love of Freudian wordplay—rarely is a cigar just a cigar—and by his strong Communist beliefs." (Publishers Weekly 8-17-92)

"This classic surrealistic novel satirizes capitalism, the Catholic Church, and fascism, using risque language and vivid, dreamlike imagery. . . . Crevel creates absurd little scenes that degenerate wittily but grotesquely into sexual vignettes." (Library Journal 9-15-92)

"Crevel constructs a biting satire of hypocrisy and affectation in the literary circles of his era. . . . This admirable translation opens to many new readers the funny, tragic, and courageous world of Renè Crevel." (World Literature Today Spring 93)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite Andre Breton's railing against the novel, it remained Crevel's favored form--which is no doubt why Crevel remains one of the most readable surrealists. Not that this last work, first published in 1935, is a tightly constructed logical whole. Rather, it is a description of the decadent baker's dozen invited to a lunch party, among them the hypocritical homosexual Prince of Journalists; his one-time beard; her son, known as RubDubDub for his slaughtered English and onanistic proclivities; and an internationally meddlesome Hapsburg archduchess. Unlike other novelists of his period, Crevel is motivated more by polities and linguistics than by a simple desire to epater le bourgeois, and he is a beautiful writer, beautifully translated. His liquid language tumbles along, powered by his strong descriptions, by his love of Freudian wordplay--rarely is a cigar just a cigar--and by his strong Communist beliefs, oddly interpreted by Pound as a condemnation of vitiated Third Republic mores and a call for Pound's own Fascist ones. Roditi is more helpful, putting the writer in the context of his pneumonic suffering, his father's suicide following his implication in a homosexual affair, his own homosexuality in a hostile circle and his eventual suicide. (Oct.)
Library Journal
First published in France in 1933, and published here for the first time, this classic surrealistic novel satirizes capitalism, the Catholic Church, and fascism, using risque language and vivid, dreamlike imagery. The story takes for background the stories of the family of the ``Prince of Journalists'' and his 13 luncheon guests. Crevel creates absurd little scenes that degenerate wittily but grotesquely into sexual vignettes. Ezra Pound's foreword mistakes Crevel's message but provides a contemporary perspective, while Edouard Roditi's introduction provides more background on Crevel's life. Recommended for academic libraries.--Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., Md.
Publishers Weekly
"First published in 1935, Crevel's surrealist novel about a decadent lunch party is beautifully written and beautifully translated.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781564780027
Publisher:
Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
12/28/1992
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
173

Meet the Author

Crevel, RenA[a¬A (1900-35). French Surrealist who initiated experiments with hypnotic sleep. His greatest contribution to the movement, however, was to demonstrate that Surrealism and the novel could be reconciled. Whether texts such as DA[a¬Atours (1924), La Mort difficile (1926), Babylone (1927), Etes-vous fous? (1929), and Les Pieds dans le plat (1933) are called romans' or fictions', the role of language itself in their elaboration is arguably the key element. Mon corps et moi (1925) is a confessional monologue and L'Esprit contre la raison (1927) is his Surrealist manifesto. For him, suicide, an obsessive theme in a number of his works, was the ultimate solution.

Thomas Buckley is an independent scholar and writer living in Maine. He previously taught anthropology and American Indian studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and coedited "Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation "(California, 1988).

Ezra Pound (1885-1972) was one of the most influential poets of the 20th Century and perhaps the key figure in defining and promoting Anglo-American poetic modernism. The Cantos - an epic poem written over 50 years - is his major poetic work.

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